Consider This...
Things to Consider in January 2022 from RTSC
This Month:

  • Cover Article
  • January Articles
  • Useful Tips and Resources
  • Upcoming Events

News and information about education, research, and support for SESPs; adoptive, foster, and kinship caregivers; and child welfare and education professionals helping children with trauma and other special needs get the most from their education.
By Eileen Sandberg
Training And Support Specialist/RTSC and Coordinator For Pathways
DCF has revised their Education Policy this month, and the RTSC program strongly urges SESPs to review the full policy, and keep it for reference. The policy includes a wealth of information that is important to SESPs, including Best Interest Determinations, and how to request Special Education legal services.
The new policy explicitly defines the roles and responsibilities and procedures for everyone who is providing educational supports to students with DCF involvement, whether they are living with their parents and have an open case, or if they are in protective care and custody. 

All children in the custody of DCF under age 3 are referred to Early Intervention services, and may be referred to early education programming. The document covers when a child should be referred for special education, and who can do the referrals. Social workers can refer for special education evaluation, but cannot sign the permission to evaluate, so an Educational Decision Maker (EDM) must be appointed.  The limitations on the Social Worker’s role are clearly defined, and will be useful in cases where it is not clear who can sign the permission to evaluate and the IEP and placement page.    

When a child is in DCF care and custody, DCF continues to involve the parent in educational decision-making unless the parent is unable or unavailable or their parental rights have been terminated. Educational Decision Makers may also be Foster Parents, be appointed by the court, or be Special Education Surrogate Parents (SESPs) for children in custody in congregate care, or as necessary in other circumstances.

Any child who enters DCF care and custody may be moved to a new residence outside of the area of their original school, and in this case, Federal law (ESSA) states that the child must remain in their original school placement unless it is found to not be in their best interest. The decision about which school the child will attend is made at a Best Interest Determination (BID) meeting. This applies to all children, whether or not they have an IEP.  In the case of the child with special needs and an IEP, it is very important that the Education Decision Maker be involved, because the EDM must sign the placement page to accept the school choice as part of the IEP. The DCF policy states, “The Special Education Surrogate Parent (SESP) and/or Area Lead Agency Education Coordinator may be involved when applicable.”

Access to legal services for Special Education is documented in Appendix F. In situations where the EDM or Social Worker believes that a special education attorney is needed such as disputes concerning the child’s rights to special education services and/or accommodations, or if the child is at risk of expulsion or is prevented from attending school because of discipline issues, a Special Education Attorney may be appointed. The procedure is for the Social Worker to contact the Education Coordinator in their area office, for issues such as denied eligibility for special education evaluation or services, denied right to a day or residential placement to meet their educational needs, the proposed termination of special education programming/services, including disputes about readiness to graduate high school, threatened or actual exclusion from their special education programming. Importantly, an attorney can also be appointed when the education decision-maker (biological parent, foster parent, guardian, or Special Educational Surrogate Parent appointed through the DESE) would like to have an attorney to assist them in resolving the dispute. A Special Education Surrogate Parent appointed by the court in conjunction or not in conjunction with appointment as a GAL who is a qualified practicing attorney, is not eligible for these services.
The policy provides information on other subjects, including how social workers are to work with the new position of Regional Educational Specialist. Social Workers must contact the Educational Specialist in many situations, including problems with Best Interest Determinations, when the student is not receiving evaluations or approved IEP services, discipline issues such as when child has received two in-school or out-of-school suspensions in a quarterly marking period or has been expelled, and when reunification is being considered but the Social Worker has concerns about the parent(s)/guardian(s) ability to act as the child’s Educational Decision Maker. The policy also describes the situations where is it optional for the Social Worker to contact the Education Specialist as needed. 

The policy has specific guidelines for educational planning when a child is preparing to leave DCF care or custody, whether the child is reunified with their family, adopted, or reaches the age of 18. The policy document has several appendices, including on the choice of the Education Decision Maker, Best Interest Determination, and in Appendix F, the procedures for requesting legal services for special education. 
January Articles
Due to the pandemic, children have had to cope with great uncertainty both in school and at home, resulting in feelings of unsafety and loss of hope. It is, therefore, more important than ever that educators use trauma-informed approaches in their classrooms. In this article, experts at the National Child Traumatic Stress Network provide recommendations for educators to best support students during the COVID-10 Crisis.

If you have been to one of our trauma trainings, you know that adverse childhood experiences (ACES) correlate to poor health outcomes in adulthood. But did you know that positive childhood experiences can buffer ACEs effects? According to a new study, positive childhood experiences, including affectionate touch, family togetherness, and positive climate, can support the functioning of the vagus nerve, an important component of the nervous system, which promotes general healthy functioning in the body. This article discusses this “first-of-its-kind” study and the implications of its results. 

Despite the work being done by agencies to support foster parents and the children placed in their homes, the challenges facing the foster care systems continue to grow, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, Dr. John DeGarmo describes 15 needed reforms to the foster care system, that includes support not only for foster parents and the children in the system, but the biological parents as well. After reading the article, watch Dr. Degarmo’s Ted Talk, “Children in Need Children Ignored, at the bottom of the page! 

When Taylor Harris and her husband moved to a new county, their new school district decided to cut their son’s early intervention in half without even having worked with him. According to Harris, this is a reality that Black families face in the education every day. In this article, Harris, discusses her struggle as a Black mother fighting for her child to receive the services secured by law. When going into an IEP meeting, Harris is not only a mother fighting for her child, but, “a Black mother advocating for my Black son in a room full of people who don’t look like us. With an education gap that lingers at the threshold of almost every school building you step foot in, I have to hold these truths close.” 

We usually associate burn-out with work. However, over the course of the pandemic, it is likely that many of us have experienced burn out outside of work, due of the ever changing COVID policies, high-risk family members, close contacts, etc. Kids are dealing with many of these same issues and going to school, like any full-time job. They may be feeling burn-out as well. This article by Moira Creedon, one of our 2021 Making a Difference Conference speakers, provides 5 important tips to support kids and teens feeling burnt-out.

Useful Tools, Media and Resources
Sibling Support Program 2022

These Zoom meetings, on the first Thursday of each month at 5:30pm, provide an opportunity for siblings to meet other children and teens who know what it's like to have a brother or sister with behavior challenges. Parents and caregivers may join a separate Zoom session to learn about the sibling experience or address ongoing family challenges that impact siblings.

Creating Restorative Schools: Setting Schools up to Succeed

This book is based on Martha brown's study of two middle schools shifting to a restorative model. Brown demonstrates that "restorative schools emerge as places where people want to be - where teachers want to teach and students want to learn."

I'm Not a Bad Parent: Film Screening

A Family Project documentary screening and discussion with parents impacted by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families

What if Schools Are the Source of Trauma: TED Talk by Rosemarie Allen

In this TED Talk, Dr. Rosemarie Allen discusses her own experiences with school trauma and asks us to examine how traumatic experiences my occur in school.

TIPS: Transition Information for Parents and Students with IEPs (Ages 14-22) Brochures

A series produced by the LINK Center- a project of FCSN and DESE

For the past few months, we have been highlighting brochures from our TIPS Series! The third brochure in the series is "Disability Disclosure" Click on the image on the right to view the full brochure or click HERE to see all of the brochures in this series!
Upcoming Federation Events
RTSC Webinar: Supporting LGBTQ Youth

An Act Relative to Gender Identity, which became effective in 2012, protects students from discrimination based on gender identity, as well as sexual orientation. This session will review the laws, policies, resources, and best practices for supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, queer, and questioning students.
About the Presenter

Landon Callahan is a transgender activist who has worked with the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students for the last 7 years. In addition to his work with elementary, middle, and high schools, Landon has also been involved in policy and curriculum development. Landon is involved in local and national politics as it relates to transgender rights. In 2016, he met with Massachusetts Speaker of the House to discuss public accommodations for transgender people, and was also interviewed by the United States Department of Justice when President Obama issued guidance on transgender student rights. Landon has been featured in Rolling Stone magazine, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times. In 2021, Landon graduated Fitchburg State University with a BS in Professional Communications and a minor in Political Science.
Training Opportunities
Trauma Training:

This training will offer a systematic approach to looking at Developmental Childhood Trauma as it impacts our students in the child welfare system. This interactive training will study trauma’s effects on the academic and social/emotional learning of a student and the impact on their IEP.

Discipline and Suspension:

This training describes different types of disciplinary offenses, the school responsibilities for discipline, range of consequences for rule violations, the difference between suspensions, expulsions, and emergency removals, different categories of suspensions, procedures for out of school suspensions and expulsions, and legal protections for students on IEPs.

Transition Planning:

This presentation provides an understanding of the transition planning process, including why transition planning is important, services that could be included, who is eligible, student and parent/SESP roles in transition planning, and the role of student’s vision. We will discuss how to prepare for a transition planning meeting, using the transition planning form, the age of majority, the anticipated graduation date, and the options when the Team does not agree, including procedural due process rights. 
FCSN Visions of Community Conference

We have limited discounts available for Active SESPs to attend this conference free of charge. Please contact us at [email protected] or call 617-399- 8342 to access the Discount Code.
Are you interested in becoming a Special Education Surrogate Parent (SESP)?
 Visit the links below to learn more!

Visit: RTSC Website

(800)331-0688 or (617)236-7210